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The Moynihan Report (1965)

The Negro Family:

The Case For National Action
Office of Policy Planning and Research
United States Department of Labor
March 1965

Two hundred years ago, in 1765, nine assembled colonies first joined together to
demand freedom from arbitrary power.
For the first century we struggled to hold together the first continental union
of democracy in the history of man. One hundred years ago, in 1865, following a
terrible test of blood and fire, the compact of union was finally sealed.
For a second century we labored to establish a unity of purpose and interest amo
ng the many groups which make up the American community.
That struggle has often brought pain and violence. It is not yet over.
State of the Union Message of President Lyndon B. Johnson,
January 4, 1965.
The United States is approaching a new crisis in race relations.
In the decade that began with the school desegregation decision of the Supreme C
ourt, and ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the demand of
Negro Americans for full recognition of their civil rights was finally met.
The effort, no matter how savage and brutal, of some State and local governments
to thwart the exercise of those rights is doomed. The nation will not put up wi
th it -- least of all the Negroes. The present moment will pass. In the meantime
, a new period is beginning.
In this new period the expectations of the Negro Americans will go beyond civil
rights. Being Americans, they will now expect that in the near future equal oppo
rtunities for them as a group will produce roughly equal results, as compared wi
th other groups. This is not going to happen. Nor will it happen for generations
to come unless a new and special effort is made.
There are two reasons. First, the racist virus in the American blood stream stil
l afflicts us: Negroes will encounter serious personal prejudice for at least an
other generation. Second, three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment
have taken their toll on the Negro people. The harsh fact is that as a group, a
t the present time, in terms of ability to win out in the competitions of Americ
an life, they are not equal to most of those groups with which they will be comp
eting. Individually, Negro Americans reach the highest peaks of achievement. But
collectively, in the spectrum of American ethnic and religious and regional gro
ups, where some get plenty and some get none, where some send eighty percent of
their children to college and others pull them out of school at the 8th grade, N
egroes are among the weakest.
The most difficult fact for white Americans to understand is that in these terms
the circumstances of the Negro American community in recent years has probably
been getting worse, not better.
Indices of dollars of income, standards of living, and years of education deceiv
e. The gap between the Negro and most other groups in American society is wideni
The fundamental problem, in which this is most clearly the case, is that of fami
ly structure. The evidence -- not final, but powerfully persuasive -- is that th
e Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle-class group has manag
ed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled, poorly educated city w
orking class the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disinte
grated. There are indications that the situation may have been arrested in the p
ast few years, but the general post-war trend is unmistakable. So long as this s
ituation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat
The thesis of this paper is that these events, in combination, confront the nati
on with a new kind of problem. Measures that have worked in the past, or would w
ork for most groups in the present, will not work here. A national effort is req
uired that will give a unity of purpose to the many activities of the Federal go
vernment in this area, directed to a new kind of national goal: the establishmen
t of a stable Negro family structure.
This would be a new departure for Federal policy. And a difficult one. But it al
most certainly offers the only possibility of resolving in our time what is, aft
er all, the nation's oldest, and most intransigent, and now its most dangerous s
ocial problem. What Gunnar Myrdal said in An American Dilemma remains true today
: "America is free to chose whether the Negro shall remain her liability or beco
me her opportunity."
Table of Contents
Chapter I. The Negro American Revolution.
Chapter II. The Negro American Family.
Chapter III. The Roots of the Problem.
Chapter IV. The Tangle of Pathology.
Chapter V. The Case for National Action.
Chapter I. The Negro American Revolution
The Negro American revolution is rightly regarded as the most important domestic
event of the postwar period in the United States.
Nothing like it has occurred since the upheavals of the 1930's which led to the
organization of the great industrial trade unions, and which in turn profoundly
altered both the economy and the political scene. There have been few other even
ts in our history - the American Revolution itself, the surge of Jacksonian Demo
cracy in the 1830's, the Abolitionist movement, and the Populist movement of the
late 19th Century - comparable to the current Negro movement.
There has been none more important. The Negro American revolution holds forth th
e prospect that the American Republic, which at birth was flawed by the institut
ion of Negro slavery, and which throughout its history has been marred by the un
equal treatment of Negro citizens, will at last redeem the full promise of the D
eclaration of Independence.
Although the Negro leadership has conducted itself with the strictest propriety,
acting always and only as American citizens asserting their rights within the f
ramework of the American political system, it is no less clear that the movement
has profound international implications.
It was in no way a matter of chance that the nonviolent tactics and philosophy o
f the movement, as it began in the South, were consciously adapted from the tech
niques by which the Congress Party undertook to free the Indian nation from Brit
ish colonial rule. It was not a matter of chance that the Negro movement caught
fire in America at just that moment when the nations of Africa were gaining thei
r freedom. Nor is it merely incidental that the world should have fastened its a
ttention on events in the United States at a time when the possibility that the
nations of the world will divide along color lines seems suddenly not only possi
ble, but even imminent.
(Such racist views have made progress within the Negro American community itself
- which can hardly be expected to be immune to a virus that is endemic in the w
hite community. The Black Muslim doctrines, based on total alienation from the w
hite world, exert a powerful influence. On the far left, the attraction of Chine
se Communism can no longer be ignored.)
It is clear that what happens in America is being taken as a sign of what can, o
r must, happen in the world at large. The course of world events will be profoun
dly affected by the success or failure of the Negro American revolution in seeki
ng the peaceful assimilation of the races in the United States. The award of the
Nobel Peace Prize to Dr. Martin Luther King was as much an expression of the ho
pe for the future, as it was recognition for past achievement.
It is no less clear that carrying this revolution forward to a successful conclu
sion is a first priority confronting the Great Society.
The End of the Beginning
The major events of the onset of the Negro revolution are now behind us.
The political events were three: First, the Negroes themselves organized as a ma
ss movement. Their organizations have been in some ways better disciplined and b
etter led than any in our history. They have established an unprecedented allian
ce with religious groups throughout the nation and have maintained close ties wi
th both political parties and with most segments of the trade union movement. Se
cond, the Kennedy-Johnson Administration committed the Federal government to the
cause of Negro equality. This had never happened before. Third, the 1964 Presid
ential election was practically a referendum on this commitment: if these were t
erms made by the opposition, they were in effect accepted by the President.
The overwhelming victory of President Johnson must be taken as emphatic popular
endorsement of the unmistakable, and openly avowed course which the Federal gove
rnment has pursued under his leadership.
The administrative events were threefold as well: First, beginning with the esta
blishment of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and on to
the enactment of the Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962, the Federal
government has launched a major national effort to redress the profound imbalan
ce between the economic position of the Negro citizens and the rest of the natio
n that derives primarily from their unequal position in the labor market. Second
, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 began a major national effort to abolish
poverty, a condition in which almost half of Negro families are living. Third, t
he Civil Rights Act of 1964 marked the end of the era of legal and formal discri
mination against Negroes and created important new machinery for combating cover
t discrimination and unequal treatment. (The Act does not guarantee an end to ha
rassment in matters such as voter registration, but does make it more or less in
cumbent upon government to take further steps to thwart such efforts when they d
o occur.)
The legal events were no less specific. Beginning with Brown. V. Board of Educat
ion in 1954, through the decade that culminated in the recent decisions upholdin
g Title II of the Civil Rights Act, the Federal judiciary, led by the Supreme Co
urt, has used every opportunity to combat unequal treatment of Negro citizens. I
t may be put as a general proposition that the laws of the United States now loo
k upon any such treatment as obnoxious, and that the courts will strike it down
wherever it appears.
The Demand for Equality
With these events behind us, the nation now faces a different set of challenges,
which may prove more difficult to meet, if only because they cannot be cast as
concrete propositions of right and wrong.
The fundamental problem here is that the Negro revolution, like the industrial u
pheaval of the 1930's, is a movement for equality as well as for liberty.
Liberty and Equality are the twin ideals of American democracy. But they are not
the same thing. Nor, most importantly, are they equally attractive to all group
s at any given time nor yet are they always compatible, one with the other.
Many persons who would gladly die for liberty are appalled by equality. Many who
are devoted to equality are puzzled and even troubled by liberty. Much of the p
olitical history of the American nation can be seen as a competition between the
se two ideals, as for example, the unending troubles between capital and labor.
By and large, liberty has been the ideal with the higher social prestige in Amer
ica. It has been the middle class aspiration, par excellence. (Note the assertio
ns of the conservative right that our is a republic, not a democracy.) Equality,
on the other hand, has enjoyed tolerance more than acceptance. Yet it has roots
deep in Western civilization and "is at least coeval with, if not prior to, lib
erty in the history of Western political thought."¹
American democracy has not always been successful in maintaining a balance betwe
en these two ideals, and notably so where the Negro American is concerned. "Linc
oln freed the slaves," but they were given liberty, not equality. It was therefo
re possible in the century that followed to deprive their descendants of much of
their liberty as well.
The ideal of equality does not ordain that all persons end up, as well as start
out equal. In traditional terms, as put by Faulkner, "there is no such thing as
equality per se, but only equality to: equal right and opportunity to make the b
est one can of one's life within one's capability, without fear of injustice or
oppression or threat of violence."² But the evolution of American politics, with th
e distinct persistence of ethnic and religious groups, has added a profoundly si
gnificant new dimension to that egalitarian ideal. It is increasingly demanded t
hat the distribution of success and failure within one group be roughly comparab
le to that within other groups. It is not enough that all individuals start out
on even terms, if the members of one group almost invariably end up well to the
fore, and those of another far to the rear. This is what ethnic politics are all
about in America, and in the main the Negro American demands are being put fort
h in this now traditional and established framework.³
Here a point of semantics must be grasped. The demand for Equality of Opportunit
y has been generally perceived by white Americans as a demand for liberty, a dem
and not to be excluded from the competitions of life - at the polling place, in
the scholarship examinations, at the personnel office, on the housing market. Li
berty does, of course, demand that everyone be free to try his luck, or test his
skill in such matters. But these opportunities do not necessarily produce equal
ity: on the contrary, to the extent that winners imply losers, equality of oppor
tunity almost insures inequality of results.
The point of semantics is that equality of opportunity now has a different meani
ng for Negroes than it has for whites. It is not (or at least no longer) a deman
d for liberty alone, but also for equality - in terms of group results. In Bayar
d Rustin's terms, "It is now concerned not merely with removing the barriers to
full opportunity but with achieving the fact of equality." 4By equality Rustin m
eans a distribution of achievements among Negroes roughly comparable to that amo
ng whites.
As Nathan Glazer has put it, "The demand for economic equality is now not the de
mand for equal opportunities for the equally qualified: it is now the demand for
equality of economic results... The demand for equality in education...has also
become a demand for equality of results, of outcomes."5
Some aspects of the new laws do guarantee results, in the sense that upon enactm
ent and enforcement they bring about an objective that is an end in itself, e.g.
, the public accommodations titles of the Civil Rights Act.
Other provisions are at once terminal and intermediary. The portions of the Civi
l Rights Act dealing with voting rights will no doubt lead to further enlargemen
ts of the freedom of the Negro American.
But by and large, the programs that have been enacted in the first phase of the
Negro revolution - Manpower Retraining, the Job Corps, Community Action, et al.
- only make opportunities available. They cannot insure the outcome.
The principal challenge of the next phase of the Negro revolution is to make cer
tain that equality of results will now follow. If we do not, there will be no so
cial peace in the United States for generations.
The Prospect for Equality
The time, therefore, is at hand for an unflinching look at the present potential
of Negro Americans to move from where they now are to where they want, and ough
t to be.
There is no very satisfactory way, at present, to measure social health or socia
l pathology within an ethnic, or religious, or geographical community. Data are
few and uncertain, and conclusions drawn from them, including the conclusions th
at follow, are subject to the grossest error.* Nonetheless, the opportunities, n
o less than the dangers, of the present moment, demand that an assessment be mad
That being the case, it has to be said that there is a considerable body of evid
ence to support the conclusion that Negro social structure, in particular the Ne
gro family, battered and harassed by discrimination, injustice, and uprooting, i
s in the deepest trouble. While many young Negroes are moving ahead to unprecede
nted levels of achievement, many more are falling further and further behind.
After an intensive study of the life of central Harlem, the board of directors o
f Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. summed up their findings in one sta
tement: "Massive deterioration of the fabric of society and its institutions..."
It is the conclusion of this survey of the available national data, that what is
true of central Harlem, can be said to be true of the Negro American world in g
If this is so, it is the single most important social fact of the United States
*As much as possible, the statistics used in this paper refer to Negroes. Howeve
r, certain data series are available only in terms of the white and nonwhite pop
ulation. Where this is the case, the nonwhite data have been used as if they ref
erred only to Negroes. This necessarily introduces some inaccuracies, but it doe
s not appear to produce any significant distortions. In 1960, Negroes were 92.1
percent of all nonwhites. The remaining 7.9 percent is made up largely of Indian
s, Japanese, and Chinese. The combined male unemployment rates of these groups i
s lower than that of Negroes. In matters relating to family stability, the small
er groups are probably more stable. Thus 21 percent of Negro women who have ever
married are separated, divorced, or their husbands are absent for other reasons
. The comparable figure for Indians is 14 percent; Japanese, 7 percent; Chinese
6 percent. Therefore, the statistics on nonwhites generally understate the degre
e of disorganization of the Negro family and underemployment of Negro men.
Chapter II. The Negro American Family
At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterior
ation of the Negro family.
It is the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community at the prese
nt time.
There is probably no single fact of Negro American life so little understood by
The Negro situation is commonly perceived by whites in terms of the visible mani
festation of discrimination and poverty, in part because Negro protest is direct
ed against such obstacles, and in part, no doubt, because these are facts which
involve the actions and attitudes of the white community as well. It is more dif
ficult, however, for whites to perceive the effect that three centuries of explo
itation have had on the fabric of Negro society itself. Here the consequences of
the historic injustices done to Negro Americans are silent and hidden from view
. But here is where the true injury has occurred: unless this damage is repaired
, all the effort to end discrimination and poverty and injustice will come to li
The role of the family in shaping character and ability is so pervasive as to be
easily overlooked. The family is the basic social unit of American life; it is
the basic socializing unit. By and large, adult conduct in society is learned as
a child.
A fundamental insight of psychoanalytic theory, for example, is that the child l
earns a way of looking at life in his early years through which all later experi
ence is viewed and which profoundly shapes his adult conduct.
It may be hazarded that the reason family structure does not loom larger in publ
ic discussion of social issues is that people tend to assume that the nature of
family life is about the same throughout American society. The mass media and th
e development of suburbia have created an image of the American family as a high
ly standardized phenomenon. It is therefore easy to assume that whatever it is t
hat makes for differences among individuals or groups of individuals, it is not
a different family structure.
There is much truth to this; as with any other nation, Americans are producing a
recognizable family system. But that process is not completed by any means. The
re are still, for example, important differences in family patterns surviving fr
om the age of the great European migration to the United States, and these varia
tions account for notable differences in the progress and assimilation of variou
s ethnic and religious groups.7 A number of immigrant groups were characterized
by unusually strong family bonds; these groups have characteristically progresse
d more rapidly than others.
But there is one truly great discontinuity in family structure in the United Sta
tes at the present time: that between the white world in general and that of the
Negro American.
The white family has achieved a high degree of stability and is maintaining that
By contrast, the family structure of lower class Negroes is highly unstable, and
in many urban centers is approaching complete breakdown.
N.b. There is considerable evidence that the Negro community is in fact dividing
between a stable middle-class group that is steadily growing stronger and more
successful, and an increasingly disorganized and disadvantaged lower-class group
. There are indications, for example, that the middle-class Negro family puts a
higher premium on family stability and the conserving of family resources than d
oes the white middle-class family.8 The discussion of this paper is not, obvious
ly, directed to the first group excepting as it is affected by the experiences o
f the second - an important exception. (See Chapter IV, The Tangle of Pathology.
There are two points to be noted in this context.
First, the emergence and increasing visibility of a Negro middle-class may begui
le the nation into supposing that the circumstances of the remainder of the Negr
o community are equally prosperous, whereas just the opposite is true at present
, and is likely to continue so.
Second, the lumping of all Negroes together in one statistical measurement very
probably conceals the extent of the disorganization among the lower-class group.
If conditions are improving for one and deteriorating for the other, the result
ant statistical averages might show no change. Further, the statistics on the Ne
gro family and most other subjects treated in this paper refer only to a specifi
c point in time. They are a vertical measure of the situation at a given movemen
t. They do not measure the experience of individuals over time. Thus the average
monthly unemployment rate for Negro males for 1964 is recorded as 9 percent. Bu
t during 1964, some 29 percent of Negro males were unemployed at one time or ano
ther. Similarly, for example, if 36 percent of Negro children are living in brok
en homes at any specific moment, it is likely that a far higher proportion of Ne
gro children find themselves in that situation at one time or another in their l
Nearly a Quarter of Urban Negro Marriages are Dissolved.
Nearly a quarter of Negro women living in cities who have ever married are divor
ced, separated, or are living apart from their husbands.
The rates are highest in the urban Northeast where 26 percent of Negro women eve
r married are either divorced, separated, or have their husbands absent.
On the urban frontier, the proportion of husbands absent is even higher. In New
York City in 1960, it was 30.2 percent, not including divorces.
Among ever-married nonwhite women in the nation, the proportion with husbands pr
esent declined in every age group over the decade 1950-60 as follows: [chart not
Although similar declines occurred among white females, the proportion of white
husbands present never dropped below 90 percent except for the first and last ag
e group.9
Nearly One-Quarter of Negro Births are now Illegitimate.
Both white and Negro illegitimacy rates have been increasing, although from dram
atically different bases. The white rate was 2 percent in 1940; it was 3.07 perc
ent in 1963. In that period, the Negro rate went from 16.8 percent to 23.6 perce
The number of illegitimate children per 1,000 live births increased by 11 among
whites in the period 1940-63, but by 68 among nonwhites. There are, of course, l
imits to the dependability of these statistics. There are almost certainly a con
siderable number of Negro children who, although technically illegitimate, are i
n fact the offspring of stable unions. On the other hand, it may be assumed that
many births that are in fact illegitimate are recorded otherwise. Probably the
two opposite effects cancel each other out.
On the urban frontier, the nonwhite illegitimacy rates are usually higher than t
he national average, and the increase of late has been drastic.
In the District of Columbia, the illegitimacy rate for nonwhites grew from 21.8
percent in 1950, to 29.5 percent in 1964.
A similar picture of disintegrating Negro marriages emerges from the divorce sta
tistics. Divorces have increased of late for both whites and nonwhites, but at a
much greater rate for the latter. In 1940 both groups had a divorce rate of 2.2
percent. By 1964 the white rate had risen to 3.6 percent, but the nonwhite rate
had reached 5.1 percent -- 40 percent greater than the formerly equal white rat
Almost One-Fourth of Negro Families are Headed by Females
As a direct result of this high rate of divorce, separation, and desertion, a ve
ry large percent of Negro families are headed by females. While the percentage o
f such families among whites has been dropping since 1940, it has been rising am
ong Negroes.
The percent of nonwhite families headed by a female is more than double the perc
ent for whites. Fatherless nonwhite families increased by a sixth between 1950 a
nd 1960, but held constant for white families.
It has been estimated that only a minority of Negro children reach the age of 18
having lived all their lives with both of their parents.
Once again, this measure of family disorganization is found to be diminishing am
ong white families and increasing among Negro families.
The Breakdown of the Negro Family Has Led to a Startling Increase in Welfare Dep
The majority of Negro children receive public assistance under the AFDC program
at one point or another in their childhood.
At present, 14 percent of Negro children are receiving AFDC assistance, as again
st 2 percent of white children. Eight percent of white children receive such ass
istance at some time, as against 56 percent of nonwhites, according to an extrap
olation based on HEW data. (Let it be noted, however, that out of a total of 1.8
million nonwhite illegitimate children in the nation in 1961, 1.3 million were
not receiving aid under the AFDC program, although a substantial number have, or
will, receive aid at some time in their lives.)
Again, the situation may be said to be worsening. The AFDC program, deriving fro
m the long established Mothers' Aid programs, was established in 1935 principall
y to care for widows and orphans, although the legislation covered all children
in homes deprived of parental support because one or both of their parents are a
bsent or incapacitated.
In the beginning, the number of AFDC families in which the father was absent bec
ause of desertion was less than a third of the total. Today it is two-thirds. HE
W estimates "that between two-thirds and three-fourths of the 50 percent increas
e from 1948 to 1955 in the number of absent-father families receiving ADC may be
explained by an increase in broken homes in the population."10
A 1960 study of Aid to Dependent Children in Cook County, Ill. stated:
"The 'typical' ADC mother in Cook County was married and had children by her hus
band, who deserted; his whereabouts are unknown, and he does not contribute to t
he support of his children. She is not free to remarry and has had an illegitima
te child since her husband left. (Almost 90 percent of the ADC families are Negr
The steady expansion of this welfare program, as of public assistance programs i
n general, can be taken as a measure of the steady disintegration of the Negro f
amily structure over the past generation in the United States.
Chapter III The Roots of the Problem
The most perplexing question abut American slavery, which has never been altoget
her explained, and which indeed most Americans hardly know exists, has been stat
ed by Nathan Glazer as follows: "Why was American slavery the most awful the wor
ld has ever known?"12 The only thing that can be said with certainty is that thi
s is true: it was.
American slavery was profoundly different from, and in its lasting effects on in
dividuals and their children, indescribably worse than, any recorded servitude,
ancient or modern. The peculiar nature of American slavery was noted by Alexis d
e Tocqueville and others, but it was not until 1948 that Frank Tannenbaum, a Sou
th American specialist, pointed to the striking differences between Brazilian an
d American slavery. The feudal, Catholic society of Brazil had a legal and relig
ious tradition which accorded the slave a place as a human being in the hierarch
y of society -- a luckless, miserable place, to be sure, but a place withal. In
contrast, there was nothing in the tradition of English law or Protestant theolo
gy which could accommodate to the fact of human bondage -- the slaves were there
fore reduced to the status of chattels -- often, no doubt, well cared for, even
privileged chattels, but chattels nevertheless.
Glazer, also focusing on the Brazil-United States comparison, continues.
"In Brazil, the slave had many more rights than in the United States: he could l
egally marry, he could, indeed had to, be baptized and become a member of the Ca
tholic Church, his family could not be broken up for sale, and he had many days
on which he could either rest or earn money to buy his freedom. The Government e
ncouraged manumission, and the freedom of infants could often be purchased for a
small sum at the baptismal font. In short: the Brazilian slave knew he was a ma
n, and that he differed in degree, not in kind, from his master."13
"[In the United States,] the slave was totally removed from the protection of or
ganized society (compare the elaborate provisions for the protection of slaves i
n the Bible), his existence as a human being was given no recognition by any rel
igious or secular agency, he was totally ignorant of and completely cut off from
his past, and he was offered absolutely no hope for the future. His children co
uld be sold, his marriage was not recognized, his wife could be violated or sold
(there was something comic about calling the woman with whom the master permitt
ed him to live a 'wife'), and he could also be subject, without redress, to frig
htful barbarities -- there were presumably as many sadists among slaveowners, me
n and women, as there are in other groups. The slave could not, by law, be taugh
t to read or write; he could not practice any religion without the permission of
his master, and could never meet with his fellows, for religious or any other p
urposes, except in the presence of a white; and finally, if a master wished to f
ree him, every legal obstacle was used to thwart such action. This was not what
slavery meant in the ancient world, in medieval and early modern Europe, or in B
razil and the West Indies.
"More important, American slavery was also awful in its effects. If we compared
the present situation of the American Negro with that of, let us say, Brazilian
Negroes (who were slaves 20 years longer), we begin to suspect that the differen
ces are the result of very different patterns of slavery. Today the Brazilian Ne
groes are Brazilians; though most are poor and do the hard and dirty work of the
country, as Negroes do in the United States, they are not cut off from society.
They reach into its highest strata, merging there -- in smaller and smaller num
bers, it is true, but with complete acceptance -- with other Brazilians of all k
inds. The relations between Negroes and whites in Brazil show nothing of the mas
s irrationality that prevails in this country."14
Stanley M. Elkins, drawing on the aberrant behavior of the prisoners in Nazi con
centration camps, drew an elaborate parallel between the two institutions. This
thesis has been summarized as follows by Thomas Pettigrew:
"Both were closed systems, with little chance of manumission, emphasis on surviv
al, and a single, omnipresent authority. The profound personality change created
by Nazi internment, as independently reported by a number of psychologists and
psychiatrists who survived, was toward childishness and total acceptance of the
SS guards as father-figures -- a syndrome strikingly similar to the 'Sambo' cari
cature of the Southern slave. Nineteenth-century racists readily believed that t
he 'Sambo' personality was simply an inborn racial type. Yet no African anthropo
logical data have ever shown any personality type resembling Sambo; and the conc
entration camps molded the equivalent personality pattern in a wide variety of C
aucasian prisoners. Nor was Sambo merely a product of 'slavery' in the abstract,
for the less devastating Latin American system never developed such a type.
"Extending this line of reasoning, psychologists point out that slavery in all i
ts forms sharply lowered the need for achievement in slaves... Negroes in bondag
e, stripped of their African heritage, were placed in a completely dependent rol
e. All of their rewards came, not from individual initiative and enterprise, but
from absolute obedience -- a situation that severely depresses the need for ach
ievement among all peoples. Most important of all, slavery vitiated family life.
.. Since many slaveowners neither fostered Christian marriage among their slave
couples nor hesitated to separate them on the auction block, the slave household
often developed a fatherless matrifocal (mother-centered) pattern."15
The Reconstruction
With the emancipation of the slaves, the Negro American family began to form in
the United States on a widespread scale. But it did so in an atmosphere markedly
different from that which has produced the white American family.
The Negro was given liberty, but not equality. Life remained hazardous and margi
nal. Of the greatest importance, the Negro male, particularly in the South, beca
me an object of intense hostility, an attitude unquestionably based in some meas
ure of fear.
When Jim Crow made its appearance towards the end of the 19th century, it may be
speculated that it was the Negro male who was most humiliated thereby; the male
was more likely to use public facilities, which rapidly became segregated once
the process began, and just as important, segregation, and the submissiveness it
exacts, is surely more destructive to the male than to the female personality.
Keeping the Negro "in his place" can be translated as keeping the Negro male in
his place: the female was not a threat to anyone.
Unquestionably, these events worked against the emergence of a strong father fig
ure. The very essence of the male animal, from the bantam rooster to the four-st
ar general, is to strut. Indeed, in 19th century America, a particular type of e
xaggerated male boastfulness became almost a national style. Not for the Negro m
ale. The "sassy nigger[sic]" was lynched.
In this situation, the Negro family made but little progress toward the middle-c
lass pattern of the present time. Margaret Mead has pointed out that while "In e
very known human society, everywhere in the world, the young male learns that wh
en he grows up one of the things which he must do in order to be a full member o
f society is to provide food for some female and her young."16 This pattern is n
ot immutable, however: it can be broken, even though it has always eventually re
asserted itself.
"Within the family, each new generation of young males learn the appropriate nur
turing behavior and superimpose upon their biologically given maleness this lear
ned parental role. When the family breaks down -- as it does under slavery, unde
r certain forms of indentured labor and serfdom, in periods of extreme social un
rest during wars, revolutions, famines, and epidemics, or in periods of abrupt t
ransition from one type of economy to another -- this delicate line of transmiss
ion is broken. Men may founder badly in these periods, during which the primary
unit may again become mother and child, the biologically given, and the special
conditions under which man has held his social traditions in trust are violated
and distorted."17
E. Franklin Frazier makes clear that at the time of emancipation Negro women wer
e already "accustomed to playing the dominant role in family and marriage relati
ons" and that this role persisted in the decades of rural life that followed.
Country life and city life are profoundly different. The gradual shift of Americ
an society from a rural to an urban basis over the past century and a half has c
aused abundant strains, many of which are still much in evidence. When this shif
t occurs suddenly, drastically, in one or two generations, the effect is immense
ly disruptive of traditional social patterns.
It was this abrupt transition that produced the wild Irish slums of the 19th Cen
tury Northeast. Drunkenness, crime, corruption, discrimination, family disorgani
zation, juvenile delinquency were the routine of that era. In our own time, the
same sudden transition has produced the Negro slum -- different from, but hardly
better than its predecessors, and fundamentally the result of the same process.
Negroes are now more urbanized than whites.
Negro families in the cities are more frequently headed by a woman than those in
the country. The difference between the white and Negro proportions of families
headed by a woman is greater in the city than in the country.
The promise of the city has so far been denied the majority of Negro migrants, a
nd most particularly the Negro family.
In 1939, E. Franklin Frazier described its plight movingly in that part of The N
egro Family entitled "In the City of Destruction":
"The impact of hundreds of thousands of rural southern Negroes upon northern met
ropolitan communities presents a bewildering spectacle. Striking contrasts in le
vels of civilization and economic well-being among these newcomers to modern civ
ilization seem to baffle any attempt to discover order and direction in their mo
de of life."18
"In many cases, of course, the dissolution of the simple family organization has
begun before the family reaches the northern city. But, if these families have
managed to preserve their integrity until they reach the northern city, poverty,
ignorance, and color force them to seek homes in deteriorated slum areas from w
hich practically all institutional life has disappeared. Hence, at the same time
that these simple rural families are losing their internal cohesion, they are b
eing freed from the controlling force of public opinion and communal institution
s. Family desertion among Negroes in cities appears, then, to be one of the inev
itable consequences of the impact of urban life on the simple family organizatio
n and folk culture which the Negro has evolved in the rural South. The distribut
ion of desertions in relation to the general economic and cultural organization
of Negro communities that have grown up in our American cities shows in a striki
ng manner the influence of selective factors in the process of adjustment to the
urban environment."19
Frazier concluded his classic study, The Negro Family, with the prophesy that th
e "travail of civilization is not yet ended."
"First, it appears that the family which evolved within the isolated world of th
e Negro folk will become increasingly disorganized. Modern means of communicatio
n will break down the isolation of the world of the black folk, and, as long as
the bankrupt system of southern agriculture exists, Negro families will continue
to seek a living in the towns and cities of the country. They will crowd the sl
um areas of southern cities or make their way to northern cities where their fam
ily life will become disrupted and their poverty will force them to depend upon
In every index of family pathology -- divorce, separation, and desertion, female
family head, children in broken homes, and illegitimacy -- the contrast between
the urban and rural environment for Negro families is unmistakable.
Harlem, into which Negroes began to move early in this century, is the center an
d symbol of the urban life of the Negro American. Conditions in Harlem are not w
orse, they are probably better than in most Negro ghettos. The social disorganiz
ation of central Harlem, comprising ten health areas, was thoroughly documented
by the HARYOU report, save for the illegitimacy rates. These have now been made
available to the Labor Department by the New York City Department of Health. The
re could hardly be a more dramatic demonstration of the crumbling -- the breakin
g -- of the family structure on the urban frontier.
Unemployment and Poverty
The impact of unemployment on the Negro family, and particularly on the Negro ma
le, is the least understood of all the developments that have contributed to the
present crisis. There is little analysis because there has been almost no inqui
Unemployment, for whites and nonwhites alike, has on the whole been treated as a
n economic phenomenon, with almost no attention paid for at least a quarter-cent
ury to social and personal consequences.
In 1940, Edward Wight Bakke described the effects of unemployment on family stru
cture in terms of six stages of adjustment.21 Although the families studied were
white, the pattern would clearly seem to be a general one, and apply to Negro f
amilies as well.
The first two stages end with the exhaustion of credit and the entry of the wife
into the labor force. The father is no longer the provider and the elder childr
en become resentful.
The third stage is the critical one of commencing a new day-to-day existence. At
this point two women are in charge:
"Consider the fact that relief investigators or case workers are normally women
and deal with the housewife. Already suffering a loss in prestige and authority
in the family because of his failure to be the chief bread winner, the male head
of the family feels deeply this obvious transfer of planning for the family's w
ell-being to two women, one of them an outsider. His role is reduced to that of
errand boy to and from the relief office."22
If the family makes it through this stage Bakke finds that it is likely to survi
ve, and the rest of the process is one of adjustment. The critical element of ad
justment was not welfare payments, but work.
"Having observed our families under conditions of unemployment with no public he
lp, or with that help coming from direct [sic] and from work relief, we are conv
inced that after the exhaustion of self-produced resources, work relief is the o
nly type of assistance which can restore the strained bonds of family relationsh
ip in a way which promises the continued functioning of that family in meeting t
he responsibilities imposed upon it by our culture."23
Work is precisely the one thing the Negro family head in such circumstances has
not received over the past generation.*
The fundamental, overwhelming fact is that Negro unemployment, with the exceptio
n of a few years during World War II and the Korean War, has continued at disast
er levels for 35 years.
Once again, this is particularly the case in the northern urban areas to which t
he Negro population has been moving.
The 1930 Census (taken in the spring, before the depression was in full swing) s
howed Negro unemployment at 6.1 percent, as against 6.6 percent for whites. But
taking out the South reversed the relationship: white 7.4 percent, nonwhite 11.5
By 1940, the 2 to 1 white-Negro unemployment relationship that persists to this
day had clearly emerged. Taking out the South again, whites were 14.8 percent, n
onwhites 29.7 percent.
Since 1929, the Negro worker has been tremendously affected by the movements of
the business cycle and of employment. He has been hit worse by declines than whi
tes, and proportionately helped more by recoveries.
From 1951 to 1963, the level of the Negro male unemployment was on a long-run ri
sing trend, while at the same time following the short-run ups and downs of the
business cycle. During the same period, the number of broken families in the Neg
ro world was also on a long-run rise, with intermediate ups and downs.
A glance at the chart [not reproduced] on page 22 reveals that the series move i
n the same directions -- up and down together, with a long-run rising trend -- b
ut that the peaks and troughs are 1 year out of phase. Thus unemployment peaks 1
year before broken families, and so on. By plotting these series in terms of de
viation from trend, and moving the unemployment curve 1 year ahead, we see the c
lear relation of the two otherwise seemingly unrelated series of events; the cyc
lical swings in unemployment have their counterpart in increases and decreases i
n separations.
The effect of recession unemployment on divorces further illustrates the economi
c roots of the problem. The nonwhite divorce rates dipped slightly in high unemp
loyment years like 1954-55, 1958, and 1961-62. (See table 21 [not reproduced] on
page 77).
Divorce is expensive: those without money resort to separation or desertion. Whi
le divorce is not a desirable goal for a society, it recognizes the importance o
f marriage and family, and for children some family continuity and support is mo
re likely when the institution of the family has been so recognized.
The conclusion from these and similar data is difficult to avoid: During times w
hen jobs were reasonably plentiful (although at no time during this period, save
perhaps the first 2 years, did the unemployment rate for Negro males drop to an
ything like a reasonable level) the Negro family became stronger and more stable
. As jobs became more and more difficult to find, the stability of the family be
came more and more difficult to maintain.
This relation is clearly seen in terms of the illegitimacy rates of census tract
s in the District of Columbia compared with male unemployment rates in the same
In 1963, a prosperous year, 29.2 percent of all Negro men in the labor force wer
e unemployed at some time during the year. Almost half of these men were out of
work 15 weeks or more.
The impact of poverty on Negro family structure is no less obvious, although aga
in it may not be widely acknowledged. There would seem to be an American traditi
on, agrarian in its origins but reinforced by attitudes of urban immigrant group
s, to the effect that family morality and stability decline as income and social
position rise. Over the years this may have provided some consolation to the po
or, but there is little evidence that it is true. On the contrary, higher family
incomes are unmistakably associated with greater family stability -- which come
s first may be a matter for conjecture, but the conjunction of the two character
istics is unmistakable.
The Negro family is no exception. In the District of Columbia, for example, cens
us tracts with median incomes over $8,000 had an illegitimacy rate one-third tha
t of tracts in the category under $4,000.
The Wage System
The American wage system is conspicuous in the degree to which it provides high
incomes for individuals, but is rarely adjusted to insure that family, as well a
s individual needs are met. Almost without exception, the social welfare and soc
ial insurance systems of other industrial democracies provide for some adjustmen
t or supplement of a worker's income to provide for the extra expenses of those
with families. American arrangements do not, save for income tax deductions.
The Federal minimum wage of $1.25 per hour provides a basic income for an indivi
dual, but an income well below the poverty line for a couple, much less a family
with children.
The 1965 Economic Report of the President revised the data on the number of pers
ons living in poverty in the United States to take account of the varying needs
of families of different sizes, rather than using a flat cut off at the $3,000 i
ncome level. The resulting revision illustrated the significance of family size.
Using these criteria, the number of poor families is smaller, but the number of
large families who are poor increases, and the number of children in poverty ri
ses by more than one-third -- from 11 million to 15 million. This means that one
-fourth of the Nation's children live in families that are poor.24
A third of these children belong to families in which the father was not only pr
esent, but was employed the year round. In overall terms, median family income i
s lower for large families than for small families. Families of six or more chil
dren have median incomes 24 percent below families with three. (It may be added
that 47 percent of young men who fail the Selective Service education test come
from families of six or more.)
During the 1950-60 decade of heavy Negro migration to the cities of the North an
d West, the ratio of nonwhite to white family income in cities increased from 57
to 63 percent. Corresponding declines in the ratio in the rural nonfarm and far
m areas kept the national ratio virtually unchanged. But between 1960 and 1963,
median nonwhite family income slipped from 55 percent to 53 percent of white inc
ome. The drop occurred in three regions, with only the South, where a larger pro
portion of Negro families have more than one earner, showing a slight improvemen
Because in general terms Negro families have the largest number of children and
the lowest incomes, many Negro fathers literally cannot support their families.
Because the father is either not present, is unemployed, or makes such a low wag
e, the Negro woman goes to work. Fifty-six percent of Negro women, age 25 to 64,
are in the work force, against 42 percent of white women. This dependence on th
e mother's income undermines the position of the father and deprives the childre
n of the kind of attention, particularly in school maters, which is now a standa
rd feature of middle-class upbringing.
The Dimensions Grow
The dimensions of the problems of Negro Americans are compounded by the present
extraordinary growth in Negro population. At the founding of the nation, and int
o the first decade of the 19th century, 1 American in 5 was a Negro. The proport
ion declined steadily until it was only 1 in 10 by 1920, where it held until the
1950's, when it began to rise. Since 1950, the Negro population has grown at a
rate of 2.4 percent per year compared with 1.7 percent for the total population.
If this rate continues, in seven years 1 American in 8 will be nonwhite.
These changes are the result of a declining Negro death rate, now approaching th
at of the nation generally, and a fertility rate that grew steadily during the p
ostwar period. By 1959, the ratio of white to nonwhite fertility rates reached 1
:1.42. Both the white and nonwhite fertility rates have declined since 1959, but
the differential has not narrowed.
Family size increased among nonwhite families between 1950 and 1960 -- as much f
or those without fathers as for those with fathers. Average family size changed
little among white families, with a slight increase in the size of husband-wife
families balanced by a decline in the size of families without fathers.
Negro women not only have more children, but have them earlier. Thus in 1960, th
ere were 1,247 children ever born per thousand ever-married nonwhite women 15 to
19 years of age, as against only 725 among white women, a ratio of 1.7:1. The N
egro fertility rate overall is now 1.4 times the white, but what might be called
the generation rate is 1.7 times the white.
This population growth must inevitably lead to an unconcealable crisis in Negro
unemployment. The most conspicuous failure of the American social system in the
past 10 years has been its inadequacy in providing jobs for Negro youth. Thus, i
n January 1965 the unemployment rate for Negro teenagers stood at 29 percent. Th
is problem will now become steadily more serious.
During the rest of the 1960's the nonwhite civilian population 14 years of age a
nd over will increase by 20 percent -- more than double the white rate. The nonw
hite labor force will correspondingly increase 20 percent in the next 6 years, d
ouble the rate of increase in the nonwhite labor force of the past decade.
As with the population as a whole, there is much evidence that children are bein
g born most rapidly in those Negro families with the least financial resources.
This is an ancient pattern, but because the needs of children are greater today
it is very possible that the education and opportunity gap between the offspring
of these families and those of stable middle-class unions is not closing, but i
s growing wider.
A cycle is at work; too many children too early make it most difficult for the p
arents to finish school. (In February, 1963, 38 percent of the white girls who d
ropped out of school did so because of marriage or pregnancy, as against 49 perc
ent of nonwhite girls.)25 An Urban League study in New York reported that 44 per
cent of girl dropouts left school because of pregnancy.26
Low education levels in turn produce low income levels, which deprive children o
f many opportunities, and so the cycle repeats itself.
*An exception is the rather small impact of the ADC-U program since 1961, now ex
panded by Title V of the Economic Opportunity Act.
Chapter IV. The Tangle of Pathology
That the Negro American has survived at all is extraordinary -- a lesser people
might simply have died out, as indeed others have. That the Negro community has
not only survived, but in this political generation has entered national affairs
as a moderate, humane, and constructive national force is the highest testament
to the healing powers of the democratic ideal and the creative vitality of the
Negro people.
But it may not be supposed that the Negro American community has not paid a fear
ful price for the incredible mistreatment to which it has been subjected over th
e past three centuries.
In essence, the Negro community has been forced into a matriarchal structure whi
ch, because it is to out of line with the rest of the American society, seriousl
y retards the progress of the group as a whole, and imposes a crushing burden on
the Negro male and, in consequence, on a great many Negro women as well.
There is, presumably, no special reason why a society in which males are dominan
t in family relationships is to be preferred to a matriarchal arrangement. Howev
er, it is clearly a disadvantage for a minority group to be operating on one pri
nciple, while the great majority of the population, and the one with the most ad
vantages to begin with, is operating on another. This is the present situation o
f the Negro. Ours is a society which presumes male leadership in private and pub
lic affairs. The arrangements of society facilitate such leadership and reward i
t. A subculture, such as that of the Negro American, in which this is not the pa
ttern, is placed at a distinct disadvantage.
Here an earlier word of caution should be repeated. These is much evidence that
a considerable number of Negro families have managed to break out of the tangle
of pathology and to establish themselves as stable, effective units, living acco
rding to patterns of American society in general. E. Franklin Frazier has sugges
ted that the middle-class Negro American family is, if anything, more patriarcha
l and protective of its children than the general run of such families.27 Given
equal opportunities, the children of these families will perform as well or bett
er than their white peers. They need no help from anyone, and ask none.
While this phenomenon is not easily measured, one index is that middle-class Neg
roes have even fewer children than middle-class whites, indicating a desire to c
onserve the advances they have made and to insure that their children do as well
or better. Negro women who marry early to uneducated laborers have more childre
n than white women in the same situation; Negro women who marry at the common ag
e for the middle class to educated men doing technical or professional work have
only four-fifths as many children as their white counterparts.
It might be estimated that as much as half of the Negro community falls into the
middle class. However, the remaining half is in desperate and deteriorating cir
cumstances. Moreover, because of housing segregation it is immensely difficult f
or the stable half to escape from the cultural influences of the unstable one. T
he children of middle-class Negroes often as not must grow up in, or next to the
slums, an experience almost unknown to white middle-class children. They are th
erefore constantly exposed to the pathology of the disturbed group and constantl
y in danger of being drawn into it. It is for this reason that the propositions
put forth in this study may be thought of as having a more or less general appli
In a word, most Negro youth are in danger of being caught up in the tangle of pa
thology that affects their world, and probably a majority are so entrapped. Many
of those who escape do so for one generation only: as things now are, their chi
ldren may have to run the gauntlet all over again. That is not the least vicious
aspect of the world that white America has made for the Negro.
Obviously, not every instance of social pathology afflicting the Negro community
can be traced to the weakness of family structure. If, for example, organized c
rime in the Negro community were not largely controlled by whites, there would b
e more capital accumulation among Negroes, and therefore probably more Negro bus
iness enterprises. If it were not for the hostility and fear many whites exhibit
toward Negroes, they in turn would be less afflicted by hostility and fear and
so on. There is no one Negro community. There is no one Negro problem. There is
no one solution. Nonetheless, at the center of the tangle of pathology is the we
akness of the family structure. Once or twice removed, it will be found to be th
e principal source of most of the aberrant, inadequate, or antisocial behavior t
hat did not establish, but now serves to perpetuate the cycle of poverty and dep
It was by destroying the Negro family under slavery that white America broke the
will of the Negro people. Although that will has reasserted itself in our time,
it is a resurgence doomed to frustration unless the viability of the Negro fami
ly is restored.
A fundamental fact of Negro American family life is the often reversed roles of
husband and wife.
Robert O. Blood, Jr. and Donald M. Wolfe, in a study of Detroit families, note t
hat "Negro husbands have unusually low power,"28 and while this is characteristi
c of all low income families, the pattern pervades the Negro social structure: "
the cumulative result of discrimination in jobs..., the segregated housing, and
the poor schooling of Negro men."29 In 44 percent of the Negro families studied,
the wife was dominant, as against 20 percent of white wives. "Whereas the major
ity of white families are equalitarian, the largest percentage of Negro families
are dominated by the wife."30
The matriarchal pattern of so many Negro families reinforces itself over the gen
erations. This process begins with education. Although the gap appears to be clo
sing at the moment, for a long while, Negro females were better educated than Ne
gro males, and this remains true today for the Negro population as a whole.
The difference in educational attainment between nonwhite men and women in the l
abor force is even greater; men lag 1.1 years behind women.
The disparity in educational attainment of male and female youth 16 to 21 who we
re out of school in February 1963, is striking. Among the nonwhite males, 66.3 p
ercent were not high school graduates, compared with 55.0 percent of the females
. A similar difference existed at the college level, with 4.5 percent of the mal
es having completed 1 to 3 years of college compared with 7.3 percent of the fem
The poorer performance of the male in school exists from the very beginning, and
the magnitude of the difference was documented by the 1960 Census in statistics
on the number of children who have fallen one or more grades below the typical
grade for children of the same age. The boys have more frequently fallen behind
at every age level. (White boys also lag behind white girls, but at a differenti
al of 1 to 6 percentage points.)
In 1960, 39 percent of all white persons 25 years of age and over who had comple
ted 4 or more years of college were women. Fifty-three percent of the nonwhites
who had attained this level were women.
However, the gap is closing. By October 1963, there were slightly more Negro men
in college than women. Among whites there were almost twice as many men as wome
n enrolled.
There is much evidence that Negro females are better students than their male co
Daniel Thompson of Dillard University, in a private communication on January 9,
1965, writes:
"As low as is the aspirational level among lower class Negro girls, it is consid
erably higher than among the boys. For example, I have examined the honor rolls
in Negro high schools for about 10 years. As a rule, from 75 to 90 percent of al
l Negro honor students are girls."
Dr. Thompson reports that 70 percent of all applications for the National Achiev
ement Scholarship Program financed by the Ford Foundation for outstanding Negro
high school graduates are girls, despite special efforts by high school principa
ls to submit the names of boys.
The finalists for this new program for outstanding Negro students were recently
announced. Based on an inspection of the names, only about 43 percent of all the
639 finalists were male. (However, in the regular National Merit Scholarship pr
ogram, males received 67 percent of the 1964 scholarship awards.)
Inevitably, these disparities have carried over to the area of employment and in
In 1 out of 4 Negro families where the husband is present, is an earner, and som
eone else in the family works, the husband is not the principal earner. The comp
arable figure for whites is 18 percent.
More important, it is clear that Negro females have established a strong positio
n for themselves in white collar and professional employment, precisely the area
s of the economy which are growing most rapidly, and to which the highest presti
ge is accorded.
The President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, making a preliminary
report on employment in 1964 of over 16,000 companies with nearly 5 million empl
oyees, revealed this pattern with dramatic emphasis.
"In this work force, Negro males outnumber Negro females by a ratio of 4 to 1. Y
et Negro males represent only 1.2 percent of all males in white collar occupatio
ns, while Negro females represent 3.1 percent of the total female white collar w
ork force. Negro males represent 1.1 percent of all male professionals, whereas
Negro females represent roughly 6 percent of all female professionals. Again, in
technician occupations, Negro males represent 2.1 percent of all male technicia
ns while Negro females represent roughly 10 percent of all female technicians. I
t would appear therefore that there are proportionately 4 times as many Negro fe
males in significant white collar jobs than Negro males.
"Although it is evident that office and clerical jobs account for approximately
50 percent of all Negro female white collar workers, it is significant that 6 ou
t of every 100 Negro females are in professional jobs. This is substantially sim
ilar to the rate of all females in such jobs. Approximately 7 out of every 100 N
egro females are in technician jobs. This exceeds the proportion of all females
in technician jobs -- approximately 5 out of every 100.
"Negro females in skilled jobs are almost the same as that of all females in suc
h jobs. Nine out of every 100 Negro males are in skilled occupations while 21 ou
t of 100 of all males are in such jobs."31
This pattern is to be seen in the Federal government, where special efforts have
been made recently to insure equal employment opportunity for Negroes. These ef
forts have been notably successful in Departments such as Labor, where some 19 p
ercent of employees are now Negro. (A not disproportionate percentage, given the
composition of the work force in the areas where the main Department offices ar
e located.) However, it may well be that these efforts have redounded mostly to
the benefit of Negro women, and may even have accentuated the comparative disadv
antage of Negro men. Seventy percent of the Negro employees of the Department of
Labor are women, as contrasted with only 42 percent of the white employees.
Among nonprofessional Labor Department employees -- where the most employment op
portunities exist for all groups -- Negro women outnumber Negro men 4 to 1, and
average almost one grade higher in classification.
The testimony to the effects of these patterns in Negro family structure is wide
-spread, and hardly to be doubted.
Whitney Young: "Historically, in the matriarchal Negro society, mothers made sur
e that if one of their children had a chance for higher education the daughter w
as the one to pursue it."32
"The effect on family functioning and role performance of this historical experi
ence [economic deprivation] is what you might predict. Both as a husband and as
a father the Negro male is made to feel inadequate, not because he is unlovable
or unaffectionate, lacks intelligence or even a gray flannel suit. But in a soci
ety that measures a man by the size of his pay check, he doesn't stand very tall
in a comparison with his white counterpart. To this situation he may react with
withdrawal, bitterness toward society, aggression both within the family and ra
cial group, self-hatred, or crime. Or he may escape through a number of avenues
that help him to lose himself in fantasy or to compensate for his low status thr
ough a variety of exploits."33
Thomas Pettigrew: "The Negro wife in this situation can easily become disgusted
with her financially dependent husband, and her rejection of him further alienat
es the male from family life. Embittered by their experiences with men, many Neg
ro mothers often act to perpetuate the mother-centered pattern by taking a great
er interest in their daughters than their sons."34
Deton Brooks: "In a matriarchal structure, the women are transmitting the cultur
Dorothy Height: "If the Negro woman has a major underlying concern, it is the st
atus of the Negro man and his position in the community and his need for feeling
himself an important person, free and able to make his contribution in the whol
e society in order that he may strengthen his home."36
Duncan M. MacIntyre: "The Negro illegitimacy rate always has been high -- about
eight times the white rate in 1940 and somewhat higher today even though the whi
te illegitimacy rate also is climbing. The Negro statistics are symtomatic [sic]
of some old socioeconomic problems, not the least of which are under-employment
among Negro men and compensating higher labor force propensity among Negro wome
n. Both operate to enlarge the mother's role, undercutting the status of the mal
e and making many Negro families essentially matriarchal. The Negro man's uncert
ain employment prospects, matriarchy, and the high cost of divorces combine to e
ncourage desertion (the poor man's divorce), increases the number of couples not
married, and thereby also increases the Negro illegitimacy rate. In the meantim
e, higher Negro birth rates are increasing the nonwhite population, while migrat
ion into cities like Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. is ma
king the public assistance rolls in such cities heavily, even predominantly, Neg
Robin M. Williams, Jr. in a study of Elmira, New York: "Only 57 percent of Negro
adults reported themselves as married-spouse present, as compared with 78 perce
nt of native white American gentiles, 91 percent of Italian-American, and 96 per
cent of Jewish informants. Of the 93 unmarried Negro youths interviewed, 22 perc
ent did not have their mother living in the home with them, and 42 percent repor
ted that their father was not living in their home. One-third of the youth did n
ot know their father's present occupation, and two-thirds of a sample of 150 Neg
ro adults did not know what the occupation of their father's father had been. Fo
rty percent of the youths said that they had brothers and sisters living in othe
r communities: another 40 percent reported relatives living in their home who we
re not parents, siblings, or grandparent."38
The Failure of Youth
Williams' account of Negro youth growing up with little knowledge of their fathe
rs, less of their fathers' occupations, still less of family occupational tradit
ions, is in sharp contrast to the experience of the white child. The white famil
y, despite many variants, remains a powerful agency not only for transmitting pr
operty from one generation to the next, but also for transmitting no less valuab
le contracts with the world of education and work. In an earlier age, the Carpen
ters, Wainwrights, Weavers, Mercers, Farmers, Smiths acquired their names as wel
l as their trades from their fathers and grandfathers. Children today still lear
n the patterns of work from their fathers even though they may no longer go into
the same jobs.
White children without fathers at least perceive all about them the pattern of m
en working.
Negro children without fathers flounder -- and fail.
Not always, to be sure. The Negro community produces its share, very possibly mo
re than its share, of young people who have the something extra that carries the
m over the worst obstacles. But such persons are always a minority. The common r
un of young people in a group facing serious obstacles to success do not succeed
A prime index of the disadvantage of Negro youth in the United States is their c
onsistently poor performance on the mental tests that are a standard means of me
asuring ability and performance in the present generation.
There is absolutely no question of any genetic differential: Intelligence potent
ial is distributed among Negro infants in the same proportion as among Icelander
s or Chinese or any other group. American society, however, impairs the Negro po
tential. The statement of the HARYOU report that "there is no basic disagreement
over the fact that central Harlem students are performing poorly in school"39 m
ay be taken as true of Negro slum children throughout the United States.
Eighth grade children in central Harlem have a median IQ of 87.7, which means th
at perhaps a third of the children are scoring at levels perilously near to thos
e of retardation. IQ declines in the first decade of life, rising only slightly
The effect of broken families on the performance of Negro youth has not been ext
ensively measured, but studies that have been made show an unmistakable influenc
Martin Deutch and Bert Brown, investigating intelligence test differences betwee
n Negro and white 1st and 5th graders of different social classes, found that th
ere is a direct relationship between social class and IQ. As the one rises so do
es the other: but more for whites than Negroes. This is surely a result of housi
ng segregation, referred to earlier, which makes it difficult for middle-class N
egro families to escape the slums.
The authors explain that "it is much more difficult for the Negro to attain iden
tical middle- or upper-middle-class status with whites, and the social class gra
dations are less marked for Negroes because Negro life in a caste society is con
siderably more homogeneous than is life for the majority group."40
Therefore, the authors look for background variables other than social class whi
ch might explain the difference: "One of the most striking differences between t
he Negro and white groups is the consistently higher frequency of broken homes a
nd resulting family disorganization in the Negro group."41
Further, they found that children from homes where fathers are present have sign
ificantly higher scores than children in homes without fathers.
The influence of the father's presence was then tested within the social classes
and school grades for Negroes alone. They found that "a consistent trend within
both grades at the lower SES [social class] level appears, and in no case is th
ere a reversal of this trend: for males, females, and the combined group, the IQ
's of children with fathers in the home are always higher than those who have no
father in the home."42
The authors say that broken homes "may also account for some of the differences
between Negro and white intelligence scores."43
The scores of fifth graders with fathers absent were lower than the scores of fi
rst graders with fathers absent, and while the authors point out that it is cros
s sectional data and does not reveal the duration of the fathers' absence, "What
we might be tapping is the cumulative effect of fatherless years."44
This difference in ability to perform has its counterpart in statistics on actua
l school performance. Nonwhite boys from families with both parents present are
more likely to be going to school than boys with only one parent present, and en
rollment rates are even lower when neither parent is present.
When the boys from broken homes are in school, they do not do as well as the boy
s from whole families. Grade retardation is higher when only one parent is prese
nt, and highest when neither parent is present.
The loneliness of the Negro youth in making fundamental decisions about educatio
n is shown in a 1959 study of Negro and white dropouts in Connecticut high schoo
Only 29 percent of Negro male dropouts discussed their decision to drop out of s
chool with their fathers, compared with 65 percent of the white males (38 percen
t of the Negro males were from broken homes). In fact, 26 percent of the Negro m
ales did not discuss this major decision in their lives with anyone at all, comp
ared with only 8 percent of white males.
A study of Negro apprenticeship by the New York State Commission Against Discrim
ination in 1960 concluded:
"Negro youth are seldom exposed to influences which can lead to apprenticeship.
Negroes are not apt to have relatives, friends, or neighbors in skilled occupati
ons. Nor are they likely to be in secondary schools where they receive encourage
ment and direction from alternate role models. Within the minority community, sk
illed Negro 'models' after whom the Negro youth might pattern himself are rare,
while substitute sources which could provide the direction, encouragement, resou
rces, and information needed to achieve skilled craft standing are nonexistent."
Delinquency and Crime
The combined impact of poverty, failure, and isolation among Negro youth has had
the predictable outcome in a disastrous delinquency and crime rate.
In a typical pattern of discrimination, Negro children in all public and private
orphanages are a smaller proportion of all children than their proportion of th
e population although their needs are clearly greater.
On the other hand Negroes represent a third of all youth in training schools for
juvenile delinquents.
It is probable that at present, a majority of the crimes against the person, suc
h as rape, murder, and aggravated assault are committed by Negroes. There is, of
course, no absolute evidence; inference can only be made from arrest and prison
population statistics. The data that follow [chart not reproduced] unquestionab
ly are biased against Negroes, who are arraigned much more casually than are whi
tes, but it may be doubted that the bias is great enough to affect the general p
Again on the urban frontier the ratio is worse: 3 out of every 5 arrests for the
se crimes were of Negroes.
In Chicago in 1963, three-quarters of the persons arrested for such crimes were
Negro; in Detroit, the same proportions held.
In 1960, 37 percent of all persons in Federal and State prisons were Negro. In t
hat year, 56 percent of the homicide and 57 percent of the assault offenders com
mitted to State institutions were Negro.
The overwhelming number of offenses committed by Negroes are directed toward oth
er Negroes: the cost of crime to the Negro community is a combination of that to
the criminal and to the victim.
Some of the research on the effects of broken homes on delinquent behavior recen
tly surveyed by Thomas F. Pettigrew in A Profile of the Negro American is summar
ized below, along with several other studies of the question.
Mary Diggs found that three-fourths -- twice the expected ratio -- of Philadelph
ia's Negro delinquents who came before the law during 1948 did not live with bot
h their natural parents.46
In predicting juvenile crime, Eleanor and Sheldon Glueck also found that a highe
r proportion of delinquent than nondelinquent boys came from broken homes. They
identified five critical factors in the home environment that made a difference
in whether boys would become delinquents: discipline of boy by father, supervisi
on of boy by mother, affection of father for boy, affection of mother for boy, a
nd cohesiveness of family.
In 1952, when the New York City Youth Board set out to test the validity of thes
e five factors as predictors of delinquency, a problem quickly emerged. The Glue
ck sample consisted of white boys of mainly Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, and Engl
ish descent. However, the Youth Board group was 44 percent Negro and 14 percent
Puerto Rican, and the frequency of broken homes within these groups was out of p
roportion to the total number of delinquents in the population.47
"In the majority of these cases, the father was usually never in the home at all
, absent for the major proportion of the boy's life, or was present only on occa
(The final prediction table was reduced to three factors: supervision of boy by
mother, discipline of boy by mother, and family cohesiveness within what family,
in fact, existed, but was, nonetheless, 85 percent accurate in predicting delin
quents and 96 percent accurate in predicting nondelinquents.)
Researchers who have focussed [sic] upon the "good" boy in high delinquency neig
hborhoods noted that they typically come from exceptionally stable, intact famil
Recent psychological research demonstrates the personality effects of being rear
ed in a disorganized home without a father. One study showed that children from
fatherless homes seek immediate gratification of their desires far more than chi
ldren with fathers present.49
Others revealed that children who hunger for immediate gratification are more pr
one to delinquency, along with other less social behavior.50 Two psychologists,
Pettigrew says, maintain that inability to delay gratification is a critical fac
tor in immature, criminal, and neurotic behavior.51
Finally, Pettigrew discussed the evidence that a stable home is a crucial factor
in counteracting the effects of racism upon Negro personality.
"A warm, supportive home can effectively compensate for many of the restrictions
the Negro child faces outside of the ghetto; consequently, the type of home lif
e a Negro enjoys as a child may be far more crucial for governing the influence
of segregation upon his personality than the form the segregation takes -- legal
or informal, Southern or Northern."52
A Yale University study of youth in the lowest socioeconomic class in New Haven
in 1950 whose behavior was followed through their 18th year revealed that among
the delinquents in the group, 38 percent came from broken homes, compared with 2
4 percent of nondelinquents.53
The President's Task Force on Manpower Conservation in 1963 found that of young
men rejected for the draft for failure to pass the mental tests, 42 percent of t
hose with a court record came from broken homes, compared with 30 percent of tho
se without a court record. Half of all the nonwhite rejectees in the study with
a court record came from broken homes.
An examination of the family background of 44,448 delinquency cases in Philadelp
hia between 1949 and 1954 documents the frequency of broken homes among delinque
nts. Sixty-two percent of the Negro delinquents and 36 percent of white delinque
nts were not living with both parents. In 1950, 33 percent of nonwhite children
and 7 percent of white children in Philadelphia were living in homes without bot
h parents. Repeaters were even more likely to be from broken homes than first of
The Armed Forces
The ultimate mark of inadequate preparation for life is the failure rate on the
Armed Forces mental test. The Armed Forces Qualification Test is not quite a men
tal test, nor yet an education test. It is a test of ability to perform at an ac
ceptable level of competence. It roughly measures ability that ought to be found
in an average 7th or 8th grade student. A grown young man who cannot pass this
test is in trouble.
Fifty-six percent of Negroes fail it.
This is a rate almost four times that of the whites.
The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines conduct by far the largest and most impor
tant education and training activities of the Federal Government, as well as pro
vide the largest single source of employment in the nation.
Military service is disruptive in some respects. For those comparatively few who
are killed or wounded in combat, or otherwise, the personal sacrifice is inesti
mable. But on balance service in the Armed Forces over the past quarter-century
has worked greatly to the advantage of those involved. The training and experien
ce of military duty itself is unique, the advantages that have generally followe
d in the form of the G.I. Bill, mortgage guarantees, Federal life insurance, Civ
il Service preference, veterans hospitals, and veterans pensions are singular, t
o say the least.
Although service in the Armed Forces is at least nominally a duty of all male ci
tizens coming of age, it is clear that the present system does not enable Negroe
s to serve in anything like their proportionate numbers. This is not a question
of discrimination. Induction into the Armed Forces is based on a variety of obje
ctive tests and standards, but these tests nonetheless have the effect of keepin
g the number of Negroes disproportionately small.
In 1963 the United States Commission on Civil Rights reported that "A decade ago
, Negroes constituted 8 percent of the Armed Forces. Today... they continue to c
onstitute 8 percent of the Armed Forces."55
In 1964 Negroes constituted 11.8 percent of the population, but probably remain
at 8 percent of the Armed Forces.
The significance of Negro under-representation in the Armed Forces is greater th
an might at first be supposed. If Negroes were represented in the same proportio
ns in the military as they are in the population, they would number 300,000 plus
. This would be over 100,000 more than at present (using 1964 strength figures).
If the more than 100,000 unemployed Negro men were to have gone into the milita
ry the Negro male unemployment rate would have been 7.0 percent in 1964 instead
of 9.1 percent.
In 1963 the Civil Rights Commission commented on the occupational aspect of mili
tary service for Negroes. "Negro enlisted men enjoy relatively better opportunit
ies in the Armed Forces than in the civilian economy in every clerical, technica
l, and skilled field for which the data permit comparison."56
There is, however, an even more important issue involved in military service for
Negroes. Service in the United States Armed Forces is the only experience open
to the Negro American in which he is truly treated as an equal: not as a Negro e
qual to a white, but as one man equal to any other man in a world where the cate
gory "Negro" and "white" do not exist. If this is a statement of the ideal rathe
r than reality, it is an ideal that is close to realization. In food, dress, hou
sing, pay, work -- the Negro in the Armed Forces is equal and is treated that wa
There is another special quality about military service for Negro men: it is an
utterly masculine world. Given the strains of the disorganized and matrifocal fa
mily life in which so many Negro youth come of age, the Armed Forces are a drama
tic and desperately needed change: a world away from women, a world run by stron
g men of unquestioned authority, where discipline, if harsh, is nonetheless orde
rly and predictable, and where rewards, if limited, are granted on the basis of
The theme of a current Army recruiting message states it as clearly as can be: "
In the U.S. Army you get to know what it means to feel like a man."
At the recent Civil Rights Commission hearings in Mississippi a witness testifie
d that his Army service was in fact "the only time I ever felt like a man."
Yet a majority of Negro youth (and probably three-quarters of Mississippi Negroe
s) fail the Selective Service education test and are rejected. Negro participati
on in the Armed Forces would be less than it is, were it not for a proportionall
y larger share of voluntary enlistments and reenlistments. (Thus 16.3 percent of
Army sergeants are Negro.)
The term alienation may by now have been used in too many ways to retain a clear
meaning, but it will serve to sum up the equally numerous ways in which large n
umbers of Negro youth appear to be withdrawing from American society.
One startling way in which this occurs is that the men are just not there when t
he Census enumerator comes around.
According to Bureau of Census population estimates for 1963, there are only 87 n
onwhite males for every 100 females in the 30-to-34-year age group. The ratio do
es not exceed 90 to 100 throughout the 25-to-44-year age bracket. In the urban N
ortheast, there are only 76 males per 100 females 20-to-24-years of age, and mal
es as a percent of females are below 90 percent throughout all ages after 14.
There are not really fewer men than women in the 20-to-40 age bracket. What obvi
ously in involved is an error in counting: the surveyors simply do not find the
Negro man. Donald J. Bogue and his associates, who have studied the Federal coun
t of the Negro man, place the error as high as 19.8 percent at age 28; a typical
error of around 15 percent is estimated from age 19 through 43.57 Preliminary r
esearch in the Bureau of the Census on the 1960 enumeration has resulted in simi
lar conclusions, although not necessarily the same estimates of the extent of th
e error. The Negro male can be found at age 17 and 18. On the basis of birth rec
ords and mortality records, the conclusion must be that he is there at age 19 as
When the enumerators do find him, his answers to the standard questions asked in
the monthly unemployment survey often result in counting him as "not in the lab
or force." In other words, Negro male unemployment may in truth be somewhat grea
ter than reported.
The labor force participation rates of nonwhite men have been falling since the
beginning of the century and for the past decade have been lower than the rates
for white men. In 1964, the participation rates were 78.0 percent for white men
and 75.8 percent for nonwhite men. Almost one percentage point of this differenc
e was due to a higher proportion of nonwhite men unable to work because of long-
term physical or mental illness; it seems reasonable to assume that the rest of
the difference is due to discouragement about finding a job.
If nonwhite male labor force participation rates were as high as the white rates
, there would have been 140,000 more nonwhite males in the labor force in 1964.
If we further assume that the 140,000 would have been unemployed, the unemployme
nt rate for nonwhite men would have been 11.5 percent instead of the recorded ra
te of 9 percent, and the ratio between the nonwhite rate and the white rate woul
d have jumped from 2:1 to 2.4:1.
Understated or not, the official unemployment rates for Negroes are almost unbel
The unemployment statistics for Negro teenagers -- 29 percent in January 1965 --
reflect lack of training and opportunity in the greatest measure, but it may no
t be doubted that they also reflect a certain failure of nerve.
"Are you looking for a job?" Secretary of Labor Wirtz asked a young man on a Har
lem street corner. "Why?" was the reply.
Richard A. Cloward and Robert Ontell have commented on the withdrawal in a discu
ssion of the Mobilization for Youth project on the lower East Side of New York.
"What contemporary slum and minority youth probably lack that similar children i
n earlier periods possessed is not motivation but some minimal sense of competen
"We are plagued, in work with these youth, by what appears to be a low tolerance
for frustration. They are not able to absorb setbacks. Minor irritants and rebu
ffs are magnified out of all proportion to reality. Perhaps they react as they d
o because they are not equal to the world that confronts them, and they know it.
And it is the knowing that is devastating. Had the occupational structure remai
ned intact, or had the education provided to them kept pace with occupational ch
anges, the situation would be a different one. But it is not, and that is what w
e and they have to contend with."58
Narcotic addiction is a characteristic form of withdrawal. In 1963, Negroes made
up 54 percent of the addict population of the United States. Although the Feder
al Bureau of Narcotics reports a decline in the Negro proportion of new addicts,
HARYOU reports the addiction rate in central Harlem rose from 22.1 per 10,000 i
n 1955 to 40.4 in 1961.59
There is a larger fact about the alienation of Negro youth than the tangle of pa
thology described by these statistics. It is a fact particularly difficult to gr
asp by white persons who have in recent years shown increasing awareness of Negr
o problems.
The present generation of Negro youth growing up in the urban ghettos has probab
ly less personal contact with the white world than any generation in the history
of the Negro American.60
Until World War II it could be said that in general the Negro and white worlds l
ive, if not together, at least side by side. Certainly they did, and do, in the
Since World War II, however, the two worlds have drawn physically apart. The sym
bol of this development was the construction in the 1940's and 1950's of the vas
t white, middle- and lower-middle class suburbs around all the Nation's cities.
Increasingly the inner cities have been left to Negroes -- who now share almost
no community life with whites.
In turn, because of this new housing pattern -- most of which has been financial
ly assisted by the Federal government -- it is probable that the American school
system has become more, rather than less segregated in the past two decades.
School integration has not occurred in the South, where a decade after Brown v.
Board of Education only 1 Negro in 9 is attending school with white children.
And in the North, despite strenuous official efforts, neighborhoods and therefor
e schools are becoming more and more of one class and one color.
In New York City, in the school year 1957-58 there were 64 schools that were 90
percent of [sic] more Negro or Puerto Rican. Six years later there were 134 such
Along with the diminution of white middle-class contacts for a large percentage
of Negroes, observers report that the Negro churches have all but lost contact w
ith men in the Northern cities as well. This may be a normal condition of urban
life, but it is probably a changed condition for the Negro American and cannot b
e a socially desirable development.
The only religious movement that appears to have enlisted a considerable number
of lower class Negro males in Northern cities of late is that of the Black Musli
ms: a movement based on total rejection of white society, even though it emulate
s whites more.
In a word: the tangle of pathology is tightening.
Chapter V. The Case for National Action
The object of this study has been to define a problem, rather than propose solut
ions to it. We have kept within these confines for three reasons.
First, there are many persons, within and without the Government, who do not fee
l the problem exists, at least in any serious degree. These persons feel that, w
ith the legal obstacles to assimilation out of the way, matters will take care o
f themselves in the normal course of events. This is a fundamental issue, and re
quires a decision within the government.
Second, it is our view that the problem is so inter-related, one thing with anot
her, that any list of program proposals would necessarily be incomplete, and wou
ld distract attention from the main point of inter-relatedness. We have shown a
clear relation between male employment, for example, and the number of welfare d
ependent children. Employment in turn reflects educational achievement, which de
pends in large part on family stability, which reflects employment. Where we sho
uld break into this cycle, and how, are the most difficult domestic questions fa
cing the United States. We must first reach agreement on what the problem is, th
en we will
know what questions must be answered.
Third, it is necessary to acknowledge the view, held by a number of responsible
persons, that this problem may in fact be out of control. This is a view with wh
ich we emphatically and totally disagree, but the view must be acknowledged. The
persistent rise in Negro educational achievement is probably the main trend tha
t belies this thesis. On the other hand our study has produced some clear indica
tions that the situation may indeed have begun to feed on itself. It may be note
d, for example, that for most of the post-war period male Negro unemployment and
the number of new AFDC cases rose and fell together as if connected by a chain
from 1948 to 1962. The correlation between the two series of data was an astonis
hing .91. (This would mean that 83 percent of the rise and fall in AFDC cases ca
n be statistically ascribed to the rise and fall in the unemployment rate.) In 1
960, however, for the first time, unemployment declined, but the number of new A
FDC cases rose. In 1963 this happened a second time. In 1964 a third. The possib
le implications of these and other data are serious enough that they, too, shoul
d be understood before program proposals are made.
However, the argument of this paper does lead to one central conclusion: Whateve
r the specific elements of a national effort designed to resolve this problem, t
hose elements must be coordinated in terms of one general strategy.
What then is that problem? We feel the answer is clear enough. Three centuries o
f injustice have brought about deep-seated structural distortions in the life of
the Negro American. At this point, the present tangle of pathology is capable o
f perpetuating itself without assistance from the white world. The cycle can be
broken only if these distortions are set right.
In a word, a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be dir
ected towards the question of family structure. The object should be to strength
en the Negro family so as to enable it to raise and support its members as do ot
her families. After that, how this group of Americans chooses to run its affairs
, take advantage of its opportunities, or fail to do so, is none of the nation's
The fundamental importance and urgency of restoring the Negro American Family st
ructure has been evident for some time. E. Franklin Frazier put it most succinct
ly in 1950:
"As the result of family disorganization a large proportion of Negro children an
d youth have not undergone the socialization which only the family can provide.
The disorganized families have failed to provide for their emotional needs and h
ave not provided the discipline and habits which are necessary for personality d
evelopment. Because the disorganized family has failed in its function as a soci
alizing agency, it has handicapped the children in their relations to the instit
utions in the community. Moreover, family disorganization has been partially res
ponsible for a large amount of juvenile delinquency and adult crime among Negroe
s. Since the widespread family disorganization among Negroes has resulted from t
he failure of the father to play the role in family life required by American so
ciety, the mitigation of this problem must await those changes in the Negro and
American society which will enable the Negro father to play the role required of
Nothing was done in response to Frazier's argument. Matters were left to take ca
re of themselves, and as matters will, grew worse not better. The problem is now
more serious, the obstacles greater. There is, however, a profound change for t
he better in one respect. The President has committed the nation to an all out e
ffort to eliminate poverty wherever it exists, among whites or Negroes, and a mi
litant, organized, and responsible Negro movement exists to join in that effort.
Such a national effort could be stated thus:
The policy of the United States is to bring the Negro American to full and equal
sharing in the responsibilities and rewards of citizenship. To this end, the pr
ograms of the Federal government bearing on this objective shall be designed to
have the effect, directly or indirectly, of enhancing the stability and resource
s of the Negro American family.
Source: â The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,â Office of Planning and Resear
h, United States Department of Labor (March 1965),